What are the Main Principles of Disaster Preparedness?

Disasters may not be totally avoidable—particularly natural disasters—but we can reduce their impact through proper disaster preparedness.

Cities, state governments, utility companies and commercial businesses can improve their resilience to disasters with the right risk management and disaster preparedness strategies. Utility companies in particular need to think ahead because of the common weather events that often interrupt vital services such as electricity.

Disaster preparedness can be approached methodically and strategically. By taking a step-by-step approach, disaster preparedness can be more successful.

The Four Phases of Disaster Preparedness

One common model for disaster preparedness involves four phases. These are the phases that every organization and entity will typically go through in relation to disasters. The phases are mitigation, preparation or preparedness, response and recovery. (Some models also add a first preliminary step, which is prevention.) Here is a look at the four main phases of disaster preparedness:

Disaster Preparedness Phase 1: Mitigation

As mentioned above, some models for disaster preparedness include an initial separate step called “prevention,” but in our view, mitigation also includes prevention. The idea is to prevent emergencies if possible and proactively mitigate their impact.

Mitigation needs to happen not only before the disaster takes place, but long before the disaster is on its way. It is not “mitigation” to scramble to prepare once you know a hurricane is barreling down on your building. Rather, mitigation is about the strategies and plans that are put into place well before hurricane season.

Disaster Preparedness Phase 2: Preparation (Preparedness)

Phase 2 of disaster preparedness is all about taking action on the mitigation strategies to get the organization or entity prepared for the potential or coming emergency.

Certainly, there can be a fine line between mitigation and preparedness, but preparation may be seen as being more expedient to an actual threat. For example, if your utility company has a plan to proactively remove hazardous trees prior to hurricane season, that might be filed under “mitigation.” If the utility company is actively removing tree branches that are at risk of falling on power lines because a hurricane is forecasted to hit the area, that’s better filed under preparedness.

Disaster Preparedness Phase 3: Response

Phase 3 of disaster preparedness falls after the major event has taken place. In effect, it’s more about how well-prepared you were, because the preparation period is now over! The response phase is all about how an organization deals with the immediate aftermath of a major disaster such as a fire, tornado, snowstorm or hurricane.

For utility companies, a major part of the response after a natural disaster will likely be tree clearing. Trees will need to be cleared from power lines and roads, which is where a tree service provider like Townsend Tree comes in.

Disaster Preparedness Phase 4: Recovery

After the disaster has hit and following the immediate aftermath, the recovery phase occurs. This is the period of time in which rebuilding happens after a disaster. The immediate risks and urgency of the response phase has passed, and things have calmed down, but there is still a lot of work to do to rebuild.

The recovery phase can be a long phase and run anywhere from six months to a year or even more. During the recovery phase, it is often a good idea to start working on phase 1 again, mitigation, and start planning ahead for the next disaster.

Utility Companies and Natural Disasters

More and more, it seems like a week doesn’t go by without another natural disaster occurring in the United States. We seem to go seamlessly from blizzards to fire season to hurricane season to floods to tornadoes these days.

Utility companies in particular are perpetually under the gun to keep services up and running despite the continuous bad weather.

One of the most common problems with a natural disaster, but one that can also be easily mitigated, is the issue of trees. Trees burn, ice up, collapse after a flood and blow down in tornadoes and hurricanes. Unfortunately, trees are also very common around power lines that are necessary for electrical services. But one of the easiest ways to mitigate damage from a disaster is simply through proper tree management. Trees that are well maintained and pruned around power lines will be less likely to cause problems during a windy thunderstorm or snowstorm.

Of course, no amount of tree pruning is going to stop a category five hurricane from blowing a tree completely down. Nor will many trees be able to survive an EF5 wedge tornado. But some of these events can also be mitigated through proactive assessment of trees to remove old, damaged and diseased trees that might be more likely to blow away during high wind events.
We can’t live without trees, nor would we want to, so making sure that the trees that grace our streets are healthy and secure is one of the best ways to reduce damage from a major environmental disaster.

Better Disaster Preparedness with a Quality Tree Service Provider

Townsend Tree is a tree service provider with a stellar track record in disaster preparedness and disaster recovery. With innovative technology and knowledgeable personnel, we offer the best in vegetation management, power line clearance and storm damage relief. Our hazard tree program involves a proactive inventory of potentially dangerous trees that are at risk of downing power lines and damaging people and property.

Townsend Tree’s headquarters are in Muncie, Indiana, near Indianapolis, and our workforce spans more than 30 states. With over 75 years of service, Townsend Tree has become a leading tree service provider known for quality and customer care.

Townsend Tree Service is a leading, multi-state provider of expert tree trimming, line clearing, and vegetation management services. We have extensive expertise preparing for major disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and more. Learn more about our integrated vegetation management services here.

Who Pays for Hurricane Clean Up in the United States?

Hurricanes are one of the worst disasters in terms of loss of life and damage to property. Unfortunately, some scientists are speculating that 2022 may be another bad year for hurricanes because of warmer water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Governments, municipalities and utility companies should be prepared and on alert for massive storm damage. Hurricane cleanup, including debris clearing and damaged tree removal, should ideally be budgeted for in advance, if possible.

The Risk of Hurricanes in 2022 and Beyond

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30. While the chance for hurricanes usually peaks around early- to mid-September, August can also be a big month for hurricanes. While most hurricanes hitting the United States happen during the months of June to November, 3% can still occur beyond the typical hurricane season.

Will 2022 end up being a record-breaking year for hurricanes? We won’t fully know if this year is record setting until hurricane season passes, but it looks like 2022’s weather conditions are especially good for massive tropical storms.

Why? Scientists have noted that the “Loop Current,” which is a stream of warmer water that comes up from the Gulf Stream current and warms the Gulf of Mexico, had already traveled far into the Gulf of Mexico by mid-May, much farther than usual.

A warmer Loop Current has the potential to feed larger storms and create massive hurricanes. Hurricanes need warmer water if they want to grow.

Unfortunately, the 2022 Loop Current pattern mirrors the path of the Gulf current in 2005, which is when the deadly Hurricane Katrina hit. Thus, the Northern Gulf Coast, including areas between Texas, Louisiana and Florida, are a great risk for massive storms throughout this hurricane season.

The Costs of Deadly Hurricanes

Hurricanes are extremely costly, both from a human life perspective and economically. According to NOAA, between 2019 and 2021 alone, the United States experienced 56 weather and climate disasters with costs exceeding $1 billion.

Tropical cyclones or hurricanes caused the most damage and death between 1980 and 2021, with $1.1 trillion in total damage and 6,697 deaths. The cost of all this hurricane damage averages out to $20.5 billion per hurricane (of course, some were far more damaging than others, such as Hurricane Katrina).

But who pays for hurricane clean up in the United States?

Hurricane Cleanup: Who Pays?

A variety of entities end up picking up the tab for hurricane damage, from the federal government to local municipalities. Beyond federal and state disaster relief funding, local governments are often required to tap into reserve funds or utilize credit to fund hurricane cleanup.

Insurance companies may cover some of the costs, but individual homeowners are often left with a large chunk of the cleanup bill.

Local and regional utility companies also need to dig into budgets to pay for necessary infrastructure repair, including utility line repair and tree clearing.

Vegetation Management and Tree Clearing

One of the main sources of damage during a hurricane are trees and vegetation, which can quickly get entangled in power lines or worse, become uprooted. Trees can cause a number of problems during and after a massive tropical storm including:

Fallen Branches and Debris

During a hurricane, tree branches can often fall and bring structures as well as utility lines down with them. The debris can get in roads and block travel, causing all sorts of havoc.

Uprooted and Broken Trees

It’s not uncommon for tree trunks to snap completely during a hurricane, which can cause property damage and death. These fallen trees can also be a major source of power outages. Trees are also often completely uprooted during hurricanes, especially when soil is moist from heavy rainfall.

Unstable Trees

Trees can shift after a hurricane due to the erosion of the soil as well as flooding. If the tree’s roots are saturated for a long time with water, they can drown, which can lead to root rot. Once this happens, the trees are prone to falling, which can cause problems with power lines and put people in danger.

Proactive Vegetation Management to Reduce Hurricane Costs

Because of all the dangers that can come from hurricane tree damage, it is very important for municipalities and utility companies to be proactive about cleaning up trees that might be harmed during a hurricane.

Ongoing, proactive vegetation management before a hurricane hits can help reduce the problem of trees harming power lines and transformers if a storm does barrel through the area.

During extremely strong storms, of course, even the most well-maintained, stable trees can be harmed, but if excess vegetation and sick trees are pruned prior to a storm, then there will be fewer chances of problems.

Keeping trees properly trimmed before a storm can potentially save costs, as it is far cheaper to maintain vegetation proactively than fix damage caused by a tree in a howling storm.

Tree Service Providers for Hurricane Preparedness

One of the most important entities involved in hurricane cleanup is a tree service provider (like Townsend Tree Service), which can be brought in to help municipalities and utility companies for emergency storm response. Tree service providers should also be tapped to clear vegetation proactively, on an ongoing basis.

Also, if a hurricane is forecast to hit an area, it’s a good idea to contact a tree service provider such as Townsend Tree Service ahead of time. If there is sufficient time ahead of the storm, the tree service provider can assess the trees that are close to power lines and prune or clear out any that are growing too close or at risk of falling during a massive storm.

Townsend Tree Service is a leading, multi-state provider of expert tree trimming, line clearing and vegetation management services. We have extensive expertise helping utilities get the power back on after major disasters like hurricanes. Learn more about our integrated vegetation management services here.

How to Reduce At-Home Energy Consumption

Sustainability is vital for a variety of reasons, and at-home energy consumption is an important key. With more people working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic started, homes have often become a combination of residences and offices.

Taking some simple steps to reduce power consumption at home can be incredibly helpful, not just in reducing costs but also in alleviating strain on stressed power grids. These energy-efficient measures can literally be lifesaving during weather emergencies such as extreme summer heat.

Taking a Home Energy Inventory

One of the first steps in reducing power consumption at home is to take a home energy inventory or audit. The energy inventory may be different depending on the household but can include common elements such as:

● Average monthly energy consumption.
● Peak energy trends (such as higher A/C consumption during summer months).
● Current appliances (such as the dishwasher, laundry machines, etc.) and their energy ratings.
● Lighting, including indoor and outdoor lighting.
● Office supplies and equipment.
● Windows and insulation.

Take a good look at each category to see where possible energy leaks and drains might be lurking. Some simple fixes might include making better choices, such as not putting the air conditioning on a high setting during peak power loads.

Energy-Saving Appliances

Appliances can be a huge power drain. In the home energy audit, identifying energy-guzzling appliances can potentially have a huge impact.

For example, is an ancient refrigerator consuming far more energy than it’s worth? In many cases, old appliances can be replaced with modern versions that have much better energy ratings.

Of course, weighing the cost of the new appliance versus maintaining the old one is also important. Note too that replacing an appliance does have an environmental impact as well. The old appliance may end up as landfill waste while the new one had an energy and environmental cost involved in its production and transportation. Thus, if replacing an appliance is only going to save a few pennies per month in energy costs, it is likely not worth it.

All that said, sometimes the choice is clear: Many newer appliances have significant energy savings and possibly other benefits. For example, a new high-efficiency washing machine not only saves energy but water as well.

When your appliance needs upgrading, look for products by respected brands carrying the yellow and black Energy Star label. These certified products can make a big dent in utility bills.

Better Lighting

Lighting is an easy way to enhance energy efficiency in a home. These days, LED lightbulbs are affordable and long lasting. They also do not contain mercury, which was a major concern about compact fluorescents or CFLs.

LED light bulbs are much more efficient than traditional bulbs, by up to three times or even more. LED bulbs also produce up to 90% less heat, making them longer lasting and safer to use.

Turning off lights when they are not in use will also save energy. New smart lightbulbs and smart plugs can make this even easier. Using an app, you can program when lights will turn on and turn off in specific rooms.

Outdoors, consider replacing wired lighting with solar powered lights. These lights can be used to make pathways more visible and are a far better option when using lights for decorative purposes.

Slaying Vampire Power

The term vampire power refers to unnecessary energy consumption by plugged-in devices. The devices may be asleep, hibernating or even “turned off” but are still consuming a small amount of energy. Electronic devices such as smart TVs, computers and computer monitors are common sources of vampire power suckage. If left unchecked, vampire power can end up becoming 10-15% of your power bill.

Smart plugs can be extremely helpful in managing vampire power leakage because they can be programmed to turn off an outlet strip at designated times.

Windows and Insulation

When temperatures rise or fall, one of the things that keeps energy bills from getting too high is insultation. Insulation acts as a buffer between the home and the outside world. Good insulation will keep heat in during the winter months and help your air conditioner cool the house in the summer.

Insulation can take the form of special materials used to line the insides of walls and roofs, but sometimes even exterior decoration can serve an insulating purpose. For example, Formstone, a fake stone applied to brick rowhomes popularized in Baltimore, helps to insulate older houses. Formstone has gone out of style, but many residents keep their Formstone precisely because it helps insulate their homes.

Windows are also a common source of lost energy. Upgrading windows to energy-efficient versions can make a hugely positive impact on heating and cooling bills. They might also be more soundproof and provide more peace for homes in noisy neighborhoods. Don’t forget to seal and weatherstrip your windows to make sure that cracks aren’t letting outside air in.

Townsend Tree clears tree branches and debris from power lines and provides integrated vegetation management services for utilities, municipal systems, pipeline companies and more. Contact us for more information.

What Does “Net Zero Carbon” Really Mean for Cities?

Climate change is at the forefront of many people’s minds, what with recent weather anomalies such as winter tornados and other natural disasters. One of the potential solutions to climate change is reducing carbon emissions. For many, the goal isn’t just reduction, but elimination of carbon emission, called “net zero.”

The idea behind net zero carbon emissions is that, through the creative use of technology and sustainability practices, we can stop excess carbon from polluting the atmosphere. This, in turn, will help maintain the average global temperature.

Since modern cities are some of the biggest culprits in terms of carbon output, creating net zero carbon cities is a major focus.

Cities and Carbon Emissions

The World Economic Forum, along with more than 70 organizations, is promoting a multi-year initiative called Net Zero Carbon Cities. With 8 billion people on the planet, who mostly live in cities, creating smart strategies for climate change is essential. The number of global city dwellers is expected to go up in the future, with more than two-thirds of the world population set to live in urban landscapes by 2050.

Because of the vast number of people that are and will be living in cities, transforming them into net zero carbon cities must be a top priority. Without better technologies, cities can be a major source of air pollution and carbon emissions.

Cities can also contribute to the heating of the planet even without carbon emissions. How? The lack of trees and addition of asphalt, concrete and other hard surfaces end up trapping and exacerbating heat from the sun. The worst city areas with no trees can become hot, hellish “urban heat islands” that can be critically dangerous to residents during a bad heatwave.

Cities also have other impacts on the environment, from the waste that gets thrown down storm drains to the trash that gets put into landfills (even landfill trash, by the way, contributes to climate change because of the methane it produces).

The New Vision for Net Zero Carbon Cities

To transform cities to net zero carbon will take a combined effort of government, private business and citizens. Each must do their part in order to reduce and mitigate greenhouse gas transmission. However, it’s not just important to control climate change. These changes into a new way of being should also help create better jobs, enable citizen participation and improve health and wellbeing. The new systems should be resilient and, of course, renewable.

In essence, we’re looking to create a future city that is its own urban biosphere, one that works more in harmony with nature than simply displacing it—which is what cities of old used to do.

These new, transformed net zero carbon cities will have a number of features. These include:

● Better roads and traffic systems that reduce congestion
● Improved water treatment, sewage administration and recycling
● More solar panels as well as greenery such as gardens on rooftops
● Smart technologies that enable better use of resources and energy
● Livable, walkable neighborhoods that offer ample tree canopies as well as mixed-use shops and residential areas
● Bike routes to reduce the need for cars, at least among the young and fit
● Better public transportation options that are greener, faster and safer
● Workplaces that don’t require unnecessary travel and on-site work when remote work can accomplish the same tasks with fewer carbon impacts

Upgrading Energy Systems and Utilities

A key part of transforming cities will be upgrading energy systems and infrastructure. The old energy systems in the United States were typically centralized and one-way. But this is an outdated way of doing things. For example, since the advent of solar panels, we could potentially see a lot more energy generated from residential homes that could be sold back to energy companies. Thus, a more distributed model of energy development and management could be utilized.

Smart technologies along with the Internet of Things (IoT) will be an important part of net zero carbon cities in the future. These technologies can be used to track electricity usage and pinpoint areas of waste and overuse. These advances in technology will help urban planners and architects better design buildings and public spaces to be more energy efficient.

Finally, during this transition, we will see many more electric cars on the streets. Many governments are working towards completely eliminating fossil fuel motor vehicles in the next few decades. While this change will require the buy-in of the public, it will eventually be adopted by most. Additionally, self-driving cars may create an environment where individual ownership is no longer necessary for everyone, and cars will be able to be utilized as needed.

Overall, the future of net zero carbon cities is bright.

Townsend Tree is a provider of tree trimming, hazardous tree removal and debris clearing for utilities, governments and energy companies. We are committed to a net zero carbon future. Contact us today for more information on how we can keep energy systems up and running.

Tips on Planting Trees

Friday, April 29, 2022, is Arbor Day, a national holiday to encourage people to plant and nurture trees. This annual holiday, which started in 1872, was the brainchild of Julius Sterling Morton, President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture.

One of the best ways to celebrate Arbor Day is to plant a tree. To get involved, you might find some non-profit groups in your area offering volunteer opportunities and some corporations may also organize tree planting events.

The Value of Trees

Trees are an important part of the ecosystem that provide food and shelter for animals and birds and add beauty to any area where they are allowed to grow and thrive. People simply love trees, and they have a positive effect on our moods and mental health.

Trees are also critical in combating climate change. They eat up air pollution and CO2 and replace it with life-giving oxygen. They reduce surface heat by providing shade, which is necessary in hot cities where pavement and buildings can create dangerous “urban heat islands.”

With all these benefits, trees also boost home and property values, making them an investment that provides tangible dividends.

Tips on Planting Trees

Planting trees is not overly difficult, but do not underestimate the care and planning that should go into your tree-planting venture. Here are a few things to consider when planting trees:

What Will You Plant and Where?

While it takes years for a tree to grow to its full height and width, keep the final size in mind when choosing what to plant and where. You’ll want a tree that doesn’t crowd out the other trees in the vicinity, or worse, grow dangerously close to a roof, power lines or other structures.

The type of tree you plant should be one that can thrive in your regional climate. Ideally, this will be a tree that is native to the area. Bringing in exotic trees could impact the ecosystem, including the insects, although it is now common to plant non-native palm trees in states like Florida and California. Both states have their own native palm trees, but in Southern California, only one palm tree is native, the Washingtonia filifera, and in Florida, many palm trees are becoming endangered due to development.

Palm trees guzzle water to survive, and other types of trees do as well, so keep this in mind when choosing a tree. You don’t necessarily want to plant a palm tree in an arid area where water is scarce unless you plan on watering it regularly.

Taller trees also need more water in general. Hot and dry areas like central Texas tend to have shorter trees because of the lack of water and excess heat.

Selecting a Tree

The best way to shop for a tree native to your area is, of course, locally. Your local nursery should have a variety of trees to choose from. A smaller, younger tree is a wiser choice for planting because larger, more mature trees often need to have their roots cut for transportation. Keeping the roots intact will give your tree a greater chance at success. This is not to say you cannot start with a larger tree, but it may need some additional care.

Preparing the Area for Planting

Once you have selected your tree and the general location, you’ll need to dig a hole. The hole will initially also be a testing hole. You should fill it with water before planting the tree, and if you notice any issues with drainage, the ground in that spot may not be suitable or you may need to consult with a professional landscaper.

The hole for your tree should be two to three times the size of the root ball of the tree.

Planting the Tree

To plant, place the tree’s root ball carefully in the hole and then fill the hole with dirt. Make sure the dirt is even around all sides and that the tree is secured in the middle. The dirt should be tamped down firmly but not packed so tightly that the roots can’t breathe. The tree should be stable in the dirt and not tipping over.

Water the tree immediately after planting. You should use enough water to make the soil moist but not too soggy.

Once the Tree is Planted

After planting, watering is one of the most important things you’ll need to do for your new tree. Depending on the tree, you might end up using five to ten gallons per week or more. Fertilizer for your tree can help it grow, especially if the soil in your area is depleted.

Mulching around the tree can also be helpful, but only if done correctly. Never place mulch directly against the tree’s trunk. This could trap moisture and cause the wood to decay. Mulch should be spaced at least three inches away from the tree trunk.

Finally, don’t forget pruning. Young trees will grow many branches that are in competition for one another as the top dog, but this can weaken the tree. Strategic pruning is the key to a healthy, strong, thriving tree for years to come.

Townsend Tree places a high value of trees. We take the utmost care to carefully trim and maintain trees to support their health while keeping branches away from critical power lines. Contact us today for more information on how we can keep energy systems up and running through smart vegetation management—or, reach out to our sister company, Townsend Arborcare, for help maintaining your residential tree needs.

What Would Happen If There Were No Trees?

On April 22, we celebrate Earth Day to remind ourselves to be grateful for our home planet. Earth Day is also about protecting the planet from pollution and deforestation by encouraging simple environmental actions such as picking up litter and planting trees.

It leaves us wondering: What would happen if there were no trees? Trees are so important to our well-being, but so often, we forget about their significance. If all the trees on planet Earth suddenly disappeared, it would be devastating to our environment.

The Negative Impact of Deforestation

Imagine a world without one tree on it. We have, of course, examples in our own solar system. Earth is the only planet in our system with trees. If you’ve ever seen footage of Mars, you may have noted how bleak and desolate the planet looks.

That’s because Mars has no trees.

Certainly, Mother Earth has her fair share of sandy deserts and desolate areas, such as Antarctica, that don’t contain any vegetation. But Earth is a forest planet in many respects—at least, it was.

Earth’s rich tree ecosystem has been quickly deteriorating since the Industrial Revolution enabled machines to advance material “progress.” The result? Far fewer trees on the planet.

In fact, early settlers to the United States didn’t really realize the value of the forests they ran across. In the 1800s and early 1900s, many beautiful large sequoias and redwoods were mowed down prior to our modern conservationist movement.

This led to approximately “96 percent of the original old-growth coast redwoods” being logged, according to the National Park Service. These old-growth forests were a national treasure that we cannot get back because it took hundreds and thousands of years to initially grow those trees. The world has lost 420 million hectares of forest since 1990. Agriculture and commercial business accounts for much of this loss of critical forest.

The Many Benefits of Trees

Trees offer many benefits to people and the planet. They are an important part of the ecological cycles of nature. People breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants basically do the reverse: they take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. For this reason, trees should be an integral part of any climate change mitigation strategy.

Trees don’t just take CO2 out of the air. They also remove common pollutants from the air we breathe, including particle matter (such as from car exhaust) and pollutant gases, including sulfur dioxide and ammonia. If you want to filter the air in your home, houseplants or small trees can help.

Trees also perform other important ecological functions such as reducing soil erosion and providing a home for animals like birds and monkeys.

Additionally, shade from trees helps to cool things down in hot summers. City neighborhoods that do not have a lot of trees are much hotter on average than neighborhoods with trees. Loads of concrete, brick and asphalt in a neighborhood can create what is called an “urban heat island,” which can be very unpleasant in the summer. These heat islands can become deadly, especially for the elderly. For example, in Baltimore, where efforts have been made to plant trees in poor neighborhoods, a study found an eight-degree difference between the hottest and coolest “Charm City” neighborhoods, with the coolest neighborhoods boasting 10 times more trees than the hottest.

Trees also beautify an area and make it more attractive and livable. This doesn’t even account for the psychological benefits afforded by natural beauty.

In short, a world without trees would be a very miserable world indeed.

How to Take Care of Trees

Trees can often do just fine when left to their own devices. However, in the modern era, with so much pollution and issues such as depleted soil, a little tree nurturing can go a long way. First, make sure you plant the right tree for your landscape. Considerations should include the amount of sunlight, the type of soil, the room for the tree’s growth and the climate. Planting a palm tree in Michigan is simply not going to end well!

Water is especially necessary when trees are first planted. In the Baltimore nonprofit initiative to plant trees in the city, they estimated that each tree would need 20 gallons per week to get established over two years.

Fertilizer and mulch can help strengthen trees and give them the nutrition and moist soil they need for healthy growth.

Pruning is also a very important part of tree maintenance. Trimming tree branches does not harm trees. In fact, pruning properly can actually strengthen the core tree structure. Deadwood on a tree can actually cause poor tree health. It can also be a hazard, not just to power lines but to people walking by.

If you represent a government or energy company and need professional vegetation management, Townsend Tree is a respected provider of tree trimming and debris clearing. Contact us today for more information on how we can keep your energy systems up and running.

What Is the Future of Energy in America?

Renewable energy is something that has been discussed for a long time, but will America ever be able to fully embrace it? While it may seem that transitioning away from fossil fuels has been happening at a snail’s pace, the good news is, things are changing for the better.

Where Does the United States Get Its Energy?

The United States currently relies on a mix of various energy sources, including renewable energy and the old stand-by, fossil fuels. Primary energy sources are those types of energy that in essence allow us to create “usable” energy, known as secondary energy.

Electricity is actually a secondary energy source garnered from other energy sources like oil, nuclear energy and solar power. (If we were to someday harness lightning, then electricity could become a “primary” energy source, but the current technology is just not there yet.)

As of 2020, here is the breakdown of energy sources leveraged in the United States:

· Petroleum: 35%
· Natural gas: 34%
· Nuclear electric power: 9%
· Renewable energy: 12%
· Coal: 10%

Here’s how renewable energy sources break down:

· Wind: 26%
· Hydroelectric: 22%
· Wood: 18%
· Biofuels: 17%
· Solar: 11%
· Biomass waste: 4%
· Geothermal: 2%

Thus, wind is responsible for 26% of the 12% total of renewable energy utilized by the United States. You’ll note that “wood,” which is not typically considered a “renewable energy source,” is also in this list. Solar power is actually quite low on the list at 11% of renewable energy, making it only a small portion of the energy generated in the United States as a whole.

As you can see, we’re still quite a far way away from renewable energy becoming the main fuel source in the United States.

The Future of Solar Energy in North America

The good news is, with aggressive action, solar power can dramatically move forward as a leading energy source in the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that solar energy could become 40% of the nation’s electricity source as early as 2035, less than 15 years away. That number could potentially increase to 45% or more by 2050.

Solar energy is cheap and can significantly help carbon emissions. No greenhouse gases are emitted while solar power is being generated, however, there may be some environmental impact in the initial creation of solar power systems.

Photovoltaics (PV) such as solar panels are popular and can be easily installed in a variety of locations, including on the roofs of homeowners, who can potentially sell energy back to utility companies when in excess. But we can also expect an increase in centralized solar power plants using technologies such as reflecting mirrors as well as solar heating and cooling (SHC) systems.

The Future of Natural Gas in North America

With the commitment to renewables, is there any future for non-renewable sources of energy such as natural gas? Natural gas can be a polarizing issue, according to McKinsey & Company, highlighting the odd juxtaposition of new discoveries and technologies providing ample liquefied natural gas (LNG) while decarbonization policies threaten the industry.

Net carbon neutral goals will put a damper on the natural gas industry, especially in states such as Hawaii, New York and California. Hawaii has an ambitious goal to be complete carbon neutral by 2045. California is gearing up to transition to at least 60 percent renewable energy by 2030, in less than 10 years.

Yet, natural gas is still a key energy source, especially in states that aren’t as focused on aggressive carbon neutral policies. While current projections by McKinsey show a leveling off of natural gas demand by 2035, gas still has an important role to play. Why?

Because gas is still a preferable alternative to coal-powered energy, and it is expected to displace coal in the medium term.

While McKinsey places gas ahead of nuclear in the long term, nuclear power is still considered to be a critical strategic energy source in the time of climate change. That said, many environmental activists have very vocal concerns about the long-term safety of nuclear energy.

What Else Is in Store for America’s Energy Future?

Energy generation is only one part of the energy equation. The other side is energy usage. On the one hand, America’s voracious appetite for energy shows no signs of slowing up. But on the positive side, more and more people are seeing the value of energy conservation. With technologies such as smart grids and more energy efficient appliances, energy consumption can hopefully be kept in check.

Electric cars will be an important part of the transition to renewables, so expect to see electric car infrastructure built out significantly in the next two years.

Townsend Tree helps utilities and pipeline companies keep energy flowing safely with services such as tree trimming, line clearing and hazardous tree removal. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you provide continuous electrical service to your customers.

Why Electric Power Is Often Cut During Snowstorms

Big winter snowstorms can cause a lot of havoc, from dangerous, icy roadways to frozen water pipes. Power outages are also a big risk during a blizzard or heavy snowfall, and these blackouts can put a lot of stress on municipalities. Here are some of the common reasons why power goes out during snowstorms and what can be done to prevent it.

How Snow and Ice Impact Power Lines

In the winter, two of the biggest dangers to power lines are snow and ice. While a little bit of snow might not cause too many problems, a big snow dump can start to weigh down trees and even power lines. Ice is even more dangerous, as it can become quite heavy. Ice and snow together could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, causing large tree limbs to fall or roofs to collapse.

Downed tree branches can land on power lines, taking out electricity for large swaths of customers.

Ice in and of itself poses a great risk to power lines since it is so heavy. Ice can short out power lines and completely take them down with just one inch of precipitation.

Local distribution lines, especially the ones that transport power in rural areas, are typically the most at risk. These lines are usually much more vulnerable because these areas are much less likely to engage in regular tree pruning and maintenance. Long-distance high voltage power lines usually fare better due to ongoing tree maintenance but can still be vulnerable to heavy ice storms.

Why Extremely Cold Temperatures Cause Power Outages

Even if the power lines stay up, extremely cold weather can put a tremendous amount of stress on the power grid. Some electrical system components may fail since they simply can’t handle the colder temperatures.

Excess cold means more people will be turning up the heat, which can add to the load on the electric grid. In the devastating deep freeze that hit Texas in February of 2021, rolling power outages were implemented to try to alleviate grid strain. The deadly winter storm took almost 250 lives according to the state of Texas, with 161 of those related to extreme cold exposure.

These types of tragic deaths can hopefully be prevented in the future through better planning as well as improved technologies.

Winter Wind Poses a Danger to Power Lines

2021 wasn’t just a bad year for cold weather, it was a year in which we saw a lot of December tornados. And while you don’t normally get a tornado with snow, blizzards can often come blustering in via strong winds. These winds can impact power lines directly and indirectly through falling tree limbs.

Animals Can Also Damage Power Lines in the Winter

Both land- and air-based animals can threaten power lines and cause power outages. Birds can unfortunately fly into power lines and squirrels have a habit of chewing on things. Some animals may also try to take shelter in or near equipment like transformers during the winter due to the heat emitted. They may end up damaging the equipment in the process.

> Birds are vulnerable to electrocution by power lines, and they are more vulnerable when wet. If you ever wondered why birds can sit on power lines, it’s simply because they have two feet on the same wire, so the electricity doesn’t need to travel through the bird. But if the bird accidentally touches a different wire or another part of the same wire with a wing, the electrical polarity changes and the bird can get zapped.

Flying into power lines is the bigger problem and kills tens of millions of birds each year. High voltage power lines (as opposed to distribution power lines) create the biggest threat to birds. The electricity being delivered is so strong, it ionizes the air and causes a voltage gradient that gets stronger the closer you get to it. Birds can usually sense this electricity in the air and will steer clear … unless they are flying too fast. In this case, a bird can be literally electrocuted in the air by the voltage gradient without even touching a wire. If they do end up crashing into a line, they can cause a lot of damage.

Preventing Power Outages in the Winter

Utility companies can take some proactive actions to reduce winter power outages. Properly maintained power lines will be less likely to fail during a storm. Keeping trees and debris cleared away from lines and equipment is also essential. Routine equipment inspections should be a key part of every winter storm plan. As for animals and pests, some of these incidences cannot be prevented but a variety of anti-pest and animal protection measures can potentially help, such as perch deterrents.

Keep the power on during the winter with professional vegetation management from Townsend Tree, a reliable provider of tree trimming and debris clearing for utilities, local governments and energy companies. Contact us today to find out how we can keep your energy systems working during the winter.

How to Prepare for a Winter Power Outage

The La Niña weather pattern is back in full force this year, with typical below normal temperatures afflicting the northern portions of the United States. Last year under the same pattern, nearly three-quarters of the country had snow on the ground with the highest percentage since experts began keeping records on country-wide snow in 2003.

Last year, winter storm Uri crashed the Texas power grid, leaving millions of people without power, heat or water—some for days. Meteorologists are estimating another bumpy and unpredictable ride for this winter, with increased cold from the Appalachians all the way up to the Great Lakes area. The Great Lakes and north-central United States are also looking at more intense weather than usual with bitter cold and snowstorms prevalent. The Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies may experience a wet winter as well, with freezing temperatures that could mean lots of sleet and ice.

The lesson learned by most from last year’s all-encompassing storms was that preparation is the key to comfort and survivability in the event of a winter power outage. So, we’ve gathered details on how power outages happen and how to stay prepared for one.

What Contributes to a Power Outage?

While some outages are caused by the overloading of a power grid, as occurred in Texas last year, other outages are caused by more mundane, but just as dangerous, conditions.

Ice and Snow on Powerlines and Trees

Fluctuating temperatures can turn rain or freezing rain to ice. When this substance clings to power lines, it can lead to huge issues. For example, just one-half inch of ice can cause power lines to become 500 pounds heavier, causing them to droop or even snap, contributing to power outages. On tree branches, this ice can result in a 30-times heavier branch weight. The result of all that weight is branches that can snap and fall, impacting power lines.

Wind

High winds from winter storms can also knock down power lines, causing localized or widespread power outages. Remember, if a power line is down, assume it is energized and stay away from it. Call your local power company or 911 immediately.

Other Issues

Damage from animals and freezing issues at power supply plants can also contribute to power outages. Additionally, damage from automobiles that skid off-road on icy streets and impact power poles can cause power supplies to be disrupted.

Preparing Properly for a Winter Power Outage

Preparation for a winter power outage is a bit different from outages that can occur during warmer months, since keeping warm will be the focus when it comes to your home environment. Alongside tips to create a (safely) heated area with alternatives to electrically powered heat, consider the following:

Basic Tips on Prepping Before the Storm Hits

There are many ways to prepare for a winter storm simply, easily and cost-effectively before it hits.

Food: Consider stocking up on canned or non-perishable items such as energy bars, cereals, crackers and beef jerky. If you have a gas cooktop, ensure you have matches to light the appliance when the electricity is off. If you have electric appliances, consider getting a wood or charcoal-fired grill for cooking—and then stock up on fuel. Also, turn down the thermostat on your refrigerator to keep food colder longer during a power outage and prevent premature spoilage.

Water: Stock up on bottled water for drinking in case municipal supplies become contaminated or if you have a well that won’t pump during an outage. Fill bathtubs with water so you can flush toilets and even wash dishes.

Supplies: Consider stocking up on batteries, flashlights and candles; buying a car charger for your phone; and of course, filling the car with a full tank of gas in case you need to use it to charge devices. Even getting an old-school phone that you can use with a landline can be an important way to reach emergency authorities if the power is out and your chargers fail.

Protect: Insulate your pipes well, especially if you have not already done so. Poorly insulated pipes can freeze and burst during an outage, causing costly damage. If the storm comes on suddenly and you feel your pipes are not properly insulated, shut the main water valve and empty all pipes of water by running it out.

Don’t Forget Fireplace Safety and Safety Requirements for Fuel-Based Heaters

Outside of food and water, your primary concern will be keeping your home heated. To stay safe, consider these tips:

Fireplaces: Use dry, well-seasoned wood to prevent smoke and soot buildup. Crack a window while burning a fire and be sure your damper or flue is open. Never close the damper again until the embers are completely extinguished. Clean ashes from previous fires to keep less than one inch of ash in the fireplace. Finally, get your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned annually and keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of stray sparks.

Fuel-based Heaters: Kerosene and propane heaters should be used with caution. Always fill them outside your home with high-quality fuel. For kerosene, this should be 1-K grade kerosene. Ensure that you have installed and inspected carbon monoxide detectors in your home to avoid harmful buildup of carbon monoxide levels. Never place anything on top of your heaters and keep them far away from combustible surfaces. Never leave a fuel-based heater unattended and have it inspected annually. Turn off heaters when you leave the room and turn them off before going to bed.

Preparation Now Means a Safer Winter Season

Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare for winter storms and the possibility of power outages. Weather is unpredictable and storms can crop up quickly, making it difficult to gather all the items you will need to keep you and your family as safe—and warm—as possible.

At Townsend Tree, we support utilities, pipeline companies and transportation departments all winter long to ensure power keeps flowing and home and business owners in more than 30 states have access to the power they need.

Your Guide to Making the Most of Your Christmas Tree

The holiday season is in full swing, and people are heading out to tree lots in droves in search of the perfect yuletide symbol for their homes: the Christmas tree. This year, however, consumers are finding trees in short supply, in part due to weather fluctuations and supply chain issues, but also due to a marked labor shortage in the tree trimming industry. Christmas tree farming is very labor intensive, with many species of trees requiring pruning and shaping for years to result in that perfect Christmas tree shape. Lack of pruning takes a toll on the beauty of prospective trees, and results in some that are simply unmarketable. Some tree farmers are even having difficulty finding competent tree cutters willing to help with this year’s harvest, making getting trees to market even more stressful.

The message for consumers interested in finding that perfect pine or fir is clear: If you see a tree you like, buy it. There probably won’t be any last-minute deals and, with a shortage of this nature, the nicest trees will sell fast. Since prices of trees will be on the rise because of shrinking inventory, it is a smart idea to take good care of the tree you choose to get the most return on your investment. This article will help you maintain your tree throughout the holidays and touch on the proper disposal of trees when the holidays have ended.

Proper Care and Maintenance of Your Christmas Tree

More than 30 million households in the United States choose a live tree over their plastic counterparts as a centerpiece to their holiday decorating. With trees in short supply — and at a premium price — if you’re one of the lucky families that have sourced a beautiful, live Christmas tree, you’ll want to ensure it maintains its freshness for as long as possible. Here’s how to extend the life of your tree this year:

Start with a Fresh Tree

For best results, source the freshest tree possible. Half of the weight of a cut tree is water, and most species can go eight hours without uptaking more. Choose a tree from a lot where the trees have been recently harvested or where the trunks are stored in water buckets to ensure they are remaining hydrated. Buying from a cut-your-own-tree farm is the best way to ensure optimal freshness.

Get the Right Stand

A reservoir stand is the best way of minimizing needle loss and help your tree to stay fresher, longer. Make sure you have a large enough reservoir for your tree’s size. You will need at least one quart of water for every inch of your tree’s trunk diameter. Also, make sure the stand is a perfect fit for your tree’s trunk — if you whittle the sides of the trunk to fit the stand you are interfering with your tree’s ability to uptake water. Make sure you check the reservoir daily to ensure you have enough water for your tree.

Learn the Proper Way to Cut

Although many people drill holes into the base of the trunk to assist with water uptake, this does not actually help. Instead, cut a disk of wood about .5 inches in size from the base of the trunk. Cut straight across, perpendicular to the axis of the stem rather than angling the cut or cutting a V shape, which can make it more difficult to seat the tree properly into the stand.

Be Aware of Safety Concerns

Keeping your live tree away from heating sources such as heaters, heating vents, fireplaces and even direct sunlight can help preserve the life of your tree and reduce the possibility of fire hazards. When decorating your live tree, use only low-heat lights such as LED lights. Make sure to inspect all electrical items before using with your tree and never leave tree lights on when you leave the house or retire to bed. If your tree becomes very dry, it is best to remove it from your home for optimal safety.

Proper Disposal of Your Christmas Tree

After the holidays, make sure you dispose of your Christmas tree properly. Never burn any part of your Christmas tree in your fireplace — instead, check your local area for specific options for Christmas tree disposal. Here are some options that are typically available:

· Trees can be cut and placed into yard waste containers or tied and stacked for yard waste pickup.
· Some nonprofits will pick up Christmas trees for a donation.
· Some recycling providers offer special tree pickup schedules for a few weeks following the Christmas holiday.
· Many communities offer tree drop-off and recycling centers where you can take your tree for no charge.
· You can participate in a tree recycling program where a provider will chip the tree and make the mulch available for gardens.

Responsibly disposing of your tree helps to reduce safety hazards caused by drying trees and provides a way to give back to the planet through recycling. Of course, if you opt for a living tree that comes rooted in a pot, you can simply plant it outside after the holidays are over and enjoy its beauty year-round.

A Tree with all the Trimmings

For most Americans, a Christmas tree is an important part of the yuletide season. But trees in general are an important part of the American landscape, bringing beauty, nourishment and stabilization to our yards, businesses and roadways. However, proper tree trimming is essential not only for the health of our living trees, but also for the safety and comfort of home and business owners. Trees that encroach on power lines can not only cause power disruption, but they can also be safety hazards in the event of storms and other natural disasters.

At Townsend Tree, we have a team of knowledgeable tree and vegetation experts that use a combination of technology and deep understanding to provide tree trimming and vegetation management services. We support utilities, pipeline companies and transportation departments to help keep power flowing and safety at the forefront for home and business owners in over 30 states — during Christmas and all year long.

The Labor Force: A Serious Issue Within the Tree Services Industry

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused mass disruption to everyone’s lives — and the ways they do business. In June 2021, there were a record 10.1 million jobs available and just 9.5 million people unemployed, which seems like the perfect win-win scenario for both employers and job seekers. Some of the reason for the disconnect between workers and prospective employers is that unemployment benefits have been generous during the pandemic, although those expanded benefits ended in September.

Most unemployed were gaining a $300 bonus from the federal government each week on top of their current state benefits, keeping many from hitting the pavements to find other sources of income. Those that do are being very particular about opportunities. And since there are more jobs than people to fill them, it is a job seeker’s market. What does this mean for the tree services industry?

Companies involved in utility vegetation management have seen a boost in market demand for their services, with a 35% increase bringing market earnings to somewhere between $4-$5 billion. While this seems good on the face of it, the fact remains that since earlier this year, there has been a pressing skilled labor shortage affecting these companies. Growing demand for services coupled with a dearth of qualified labor spells difficulties for tree services companies — and the utilities they serve.

What is Contributing to the Tree Services Labor Shortage?

Since competition is elevated, some companies are poaching qualified labor from their colleagues and suppliers, resulting in high turnover rates and an increase in newer, less experienced crew members. Since the job is physically demanding, many are choosing to find work in other industries that are less so.

Employees Move Where the Pay is Better

Investor-owned utilities often pay better than their public cohorts, including smaller and municipal organizations. For this reason, the workforce tends to migrate where the pay is greater.

Many are Retiring

An increase in retiring tree service professionals is putting a dent in the workforce in two ways: First, retiring employees reduce workforce numbers and they take their expertise with them. Secondly, replacing an employee with 20 years of knowledge is difficult, since younger staff require extensive training to get up to speed.

Company Politics and Stability

As with any industry, some tree service companies may have internal issues that make the workplace difficult to navigate — a problem that can result in employees finding work elsewhere. Employees will gravitate toward positions with well-equipped organizations that offer stability and opportunities for advancement and expansion.

Safety Concerns

The utility maintenance profession — and tree service in particular — is physically demanding as well as potentially risky. To keep these concerns at bay for employees, this means tree service organizations must closely follow stringent safety protocols.

How to Reduce the Impact of the Labor Shortage

There are many things organizations that companies that offer tree services and utility maintenance can do to keep their talent pool healthy.

· Understand the needs and challenges of a younger generation and meet their requirements.
· Offer a career rather than a job position.
· Concentrate on the development of skills and experience rather than simple on-the-job training.
· Ownership and empowerment should be offered all the way down to the crew level.
· Tree service requires much skill; Make pay commensurate with this level of skill.
· Reframe the profession as a necessary component that helps preserve the integrity of crucial infrastructure.
· Focus on creating a safe work environment.

At Townsend Tree, we draw motivated, talented staff by offering comprehensive benefits packages that help support our employees and their families and by creating a safe, positive environment. By focusing on ways to improve both professional and personal quality of life standards, we can maintain teams of highly qualified, knowledgeable staff members to serve our client base.

Get Your Tree Service and Line Maintenance Scheduled Now

For utilities, there is no better way to ensure continuity of services than to schedule them in advance according to a specific schedule. In the fall, many tree service companies are overwhelmed with emergency calls due to sudden storms and weather events and these calls often must be prioritized because of potential safety factors. If the company is already understaffed, it can be difficult to manage the emergency work among last-minute calls for routine maintenance. Additionally, unexpected storms and changes in the weather can halt or stall routine vegetation management, contributing to work delays.

However, if you keep your vegetation properly maintained on a strict schedule, even a slight delay in a routine visit should not result in dangerous overgrowth. And if vegetation management companies have a yearly schedule to follow, it becomes simpler for them to allocate the proper staff to take care of both emergency calls and assigned maintenance tasks.

After the Storm — How to Stay Safe in the Wake of a Major Storm

Rainstorms are an important resource for our waterways and aquifers, bringing life-giving water for irrigation, drinking water and more. But there is a significant difference in a gentle shower and a violent downpour that can result in destruction of houses and even loss of life. And as our world grows warmer, the propensity for violent storms is on the increase.

Rising sea levels caused by melting polar ice can contribute to a storm’s destructive capacity with higher storm surges and more flooding. And scientists are currently exploring a connection between warming seas and an increase in the intensity of cold winter storms along the eastern half of the United States.

For most, however, the time between June and November is peak tropical storm and hurricane season. In the recent past, storms experienced during this timeframe have shown an alarming increase in intensity. For one thing, they are getting wetter. Rainfall rates during these storms are increasing and one storm can now produce more water than ever before, thanks to the warming trend. To illustrate this, scientists noted that Hurricane Harvey, a storm that touched ground in the U.S. in 2017, dumped more than 40 inches of rain during its journey across the southeastern states — more rain than had ever been recorded in history.

Thunderstorm depicting lightning and strong rain.

Another notable change is storm intensity, which researchers say is increasing by about 8% each decade. Intensity includes damaging winds as well as rainfall. What’s more alarming is the ability of these storms to intensify quickly, with some wind speeds increasing by 35 mph over a one-day period.

For homeowners, businesses and the utilities that serve them, this trend can be not only troubling — but dangerous. A storm’s danger doesn’t just pass when the storm fizzles out. Flooding, high winds and other factors contribute to sustained dangerous conditions after a storm has passed. While we currently can’t do anything to stop storms from evolving, we can protect ourselves from these dangerous conditions with some simple safety tips.

Tips for Staying Safe After a Storm has passed

Many people breathe a sigh of relief after a major storm has passed, counting their blessings, particularly if the storm caused no damage to their home or business. But even though the sun may be shining, there are still many dangers that exist after a major storm.

Here is what you should know to keep yourself safe:

Stay Clear from Downed Power Lines

It is common for power lines to be on the ground following an intense storm. Sometimes they can be arcing or throwing sparks, but other times they can seem dead. However, any utility line— from telephone wires to television cable lines — can be in contact with power lines that are energized, and any contact with them can cause electrical shock and even death.

If you see a downed power line, report it to your local utility and warn others to stay away from it. Never touch it, drive over it in a car or touch anything metal that is in the line’s vicinity. A downed line can energize metal objects that are near it such as culverts or fences.

If Your Power is Out, Use Flashlights Instead of Candles

While it might be tempting to use candles to light certain areas of your home in a power outage, this is a fire hazard and should be avoided if you can. Make sure you have plenty of flashlights or even battery-operated candles and a supply of extra batteries on hand for emergencies.

Be Careful When Clearing Tree Damage After a Storm

You might want to get right back to business after a storm — and that could mean clearing downed trees or vegetation from your home or place of work. This is a dangerous proposition, particularly if the trees are growing near electric or other utility lines.

If there are limbs down or tree damage, call your utility immediately. Electricity from sparks and arcing can cause a fire and even jump from the tree to a person nearby if the tree is still live and especially if it is wet. Any live wire touching a tree can electrify not only the tree, but also the ground around it, making the entire area dangerous.

Your utility will call in a professional tree-trimming service that will take care of the broken branches, limbs and other vegetation in a safe manner that will protect you — and your house or business — from additional harm.

For Utilities, Townsend Tree is the Answer to After-Storm Safety

If you’re a utility, chances are you will be flooded with calls from residential and business customers experiencing issues with downed lines after a storm passes. Many of these lines may be in contact with surrounding vegetation or may have been downed by broken tree limbs or other issues with surrounding trees. A downed line surrounded by vegetation and debris can pose a serious threat to untrained or unaware individuals in the area, so it is to your advantage to manage the situation as quickly as possible.

To manage risk for your customers — and for your utility — it is smart to call in experts to remove any dangerous vegetation and clear the area for your workers. Townsend Tree has leading-edge knowledge in storm damage relief procedures, including power line clearance, hazardous tree removal and removal and processing of debris. Our team of tree clearing professionals can easily assess the situation and provide a fast, cost-effective solution that will clear the area safely and efficiently to help keep your workers and your customers safe.

Electrical Utility Budget Planning for 2022

In 2020, there were 22 weather or climate disasters that impacted the United States, each of which cost $1 billion or more in damages. In fact, all told the storms amounted to $95 billion in total damages. There were a record seven tropical cyclone disasters, 13 severe storms, one drought disaster, and one that was attributed to wildfires.

Not only did these disasters destroy infrastructure and cost lives, but they also impacted electrical utilities across the nation. In Texas, for example, the February winter storm was one of the most expensive in history. The historic freeze took down many of the state’s generators, leaving electricity companies to buy the power they needed at exorbitant rates as natural gas prices rose more than 700 percent as the storm continued. One main reason for power outages from this storm was ice build-up on mature trees that impacted power lines.

While Texas lawmakers look at approving billions of dollars in financial relief to electricity and gas markets, utilities elsewhere in the nation are reeling from the ongoing battery of storms and weather disasters. Hurricane Ida has spotlighted problems with Louisiana’s largest grid operator, Entergy Corp., where slow power restoration is a criticism of the energy giant. Ida knocked down trees across its path — from Louisiana to Mississippi and points north — leaving millions without power.

This scenario is being played out across the country and energy providers are seeking to grapple with growing demands. In the meantime, electrical utility budget planning is commencing for 2022 and there are various decisions to be made.

Electrical Utility Budgeting and Planning: Pinpointing and Planning for the Cause of Outages

Fall is the time when most utilities issue their Requests for Proposal for the following year. When budgets are robust, utilities can invest in a robust vegetation management program that can help prevent the kind of devastation the aforementioned storms caused. Not only do utilities have to increase their focus on bolstering infrastructure, but they must keep a keen interest in preserving and maintaining the infrastructure already in place.

This just makes good fiscal sense.

Trees are the Leading Causes of Power Outages

It’s true. And, if a tree falls on a power line, the utility that owns the line is responsible for the damage. And in fact, the National Electrical Safety Code requires utilities to ensure that vegetation — including trees and branches — are pruned, trimmed, or removed to prevent damage to lines that could create a risk of injury.

But Trimming Trees is One of the Least Expensive Ways to Manage Power

Electric utilities want to deliver power as inexpensively as possible. Harry Ng, a project manager for the Electric Power Research Institute, notes that tree trimming and removal is the fastest, easiest, least expensive way for utilities to supply power to customers. A tree management program costs three to 10 times less than burying existing lines.

The results of a good tree trimming and management program are calculable. Kansas City Power and Light manages to get great results in one of the most treed cities in the nation. They began a serious tree trimming program after a major storm in 1985. Using their tree management program, they have achieved a 90 percent reduction in tree-related outages.

Other power companies such as Arkansas Power and Light have doubled their budget for tree trimming, moving from $6-$8 million to $12 million.

Post-Pandemic Cuts Might Keep Electrical Utility Budgets Tight The operative word here is “might.” Since COVID-19, commercial demand for power has declined while the more profitable residential demand is on the rise. There are many issues facing modern utilities, including replacing or bolstering legacy infrastructure and increasing their ability to meet rising demand.

Continuing Tree Management: The Smart Fiscal Choice for Electric Utilities’ 2022 Budget

It’s simple. Even if budgets are tight, the least expensive way to reduce the potential of costly damage and power outages, not to mention reducing the potential for expensive lawsuits, is to create and maintain a robust tree management program.

Just take a look at California’s PG&E, a power company that is facing numerous lawsuits for failing to cut trees that posed a danger in wildfire-prone areas. This utility has experienced several serious issues that were attributable to inadequate vegetation management activities that led to unforeseen outages. Whether or not your budget is tight, a strong tree management program is an essential element of a smart fiscal program for power utilities.

· Keeping trees trimmed is less expensive than buried power lines.
· Trimming trees reduces power outages and associated damages up to 90 percent.
· Managing vegetation reduces the probability of costly lawsuits.

Notably, staying on top of your current tree trimming program is important. If your tree trimming program is allowed to falter, coming back later to take care of more mature vegetation can end up costing you double — or more.